Rick Wakeman is a fan of Simon Cowell

Peter WalshRock legend Rick Wakeman described this year's Christmas number 1 as a 'joke' but admitted he was a fan of music mogul Simon Cowell.Peter Walsh

Rock legend Rick Wakeman described this year's Christmas number 1 as a 'joke' but admitted he was a fan of music mogul Simon Cowell.

Mr Wakeman, who was in Norwich yesterday for the result of his charity weight-loss challenge, spoke out after an internet 'protest' campaign helped American rap metal act Rage Against the Machine beat X Factor winner Joe McElderry to the coveted Christmas top spot.

It was to be the closest festive race in pop history with the American group selling more than 502,000 copies of their 1992 Killing in the Name track, in comparison to the 18-year-old's 450,000 sales of The Climb.

They pulled off the shock result after a huge Facebook 'protest' campaign by fans against X Factor boss Cowell whose acts have dominated the festive charts for the past five years.

The majority of RATM's sales were by internet download - which Mr Wakeman, who performed in the Strawbs and Yes before producing renowned solo works, showed how much the music industry had changed.

He said: 'It's not the same as buying the record off the shelf. I think the whole Christmas single thing this year will go down as a bit of an anomaly. What I would love to see is 50 or 60 artists recording Christmas songs for Christmas like it used to be

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'You used to have hundreds and hundreds of Christmas records all recorded in August but now people don't bother to come up with Christmas songs. It's the same old songs that come out year by year.'

Mr Wakeman said though the protestors might have won their Christmas battle, Cowell was still a winner.

He said: 'I think Simon Cowell is very clever. He gears X Factor up to finish around Christmas time. I actually think he gives a lot of people what they want. I'm not a great fan of the programme but I am a fan of Simon Cowell.'

Mr Wakeman has helped raise thousands of pounds for charity this Christmas - by losing weight.

The music star from Scole, near Diss, pledged to lose weight after confessing he was fed up with being overweight on BBC Radio Norfolk's morning show in October and accepted a challenge to lose as much weight as he could by Christmas - and help raise cash for the Salvation Army at the same time.

Mr Wakeman was back at The Forum yesterday for his final weigh-in live on the show with presenters Graham Barnard and Karen Buchanan watching on.

When he started the challenge Mr Wakeman weighed in at just over 19st but in taking the scales yesterday was 18st 1lb - making a total loss of 13 lbs - and helping to raise more than �1, 300 for the Salvation Army from generous listeners.

He said: 'I do feel better, I really do feel better but my aim is still to get down to 14st 7lbs by my birthday in May. I can't believe how generous people in Norfolk are, it really is amazing.'

You can still donate money by sending a cheque to Rick Wakeman's Salvation Army Appeal c/ o BBC Radio Norfolk The Forum Millennium Plain Norwich NR2 1BH.

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